4. SLP Dismissal / Exits

The overriding factor making special education dismissal difficult is an historic bias favoring Most Restrictive Environment (MRE), not Least. MRE is placing an at-risk children in education situations that continues to impose limits on a full range of opportunity to learn the way non-disabled children learn. The bias is segregation of the handicapped and it affects non-disabled children who are hard-to-teach.

At the beginning of the 20th century handicapped persons were segregated and excluded from schools (cf. History of Misidentification). For those who did attend they were often misidentified as mentally retarded and placed in isolated self-contained classrooms and buildings.

Parent advocacy groups winning court concessions cleared the way for FAPE in IDEA 1997. The issue was civil rights, not theories of education.

As handicapped children poured into schools, special education placement became the new way of segregating children. Mental retardation as the category of choice was replaced by “specific learning disability.” That category grew 300%. Hard-to-teach black, poor, language-different, hyperactive, male, emotionally challenged and native American children were segregated from general education programs by strict regulations and cumbersome paperwork.

General educators did little to develop strong remedial programs to prevent overidentification (e.g., response to intervention). Remedial education was shifted to special education. Professional organizations advocated for hiring more personnel to serve the many children who were incorrectly placed in special education. The point was reached where Congress had to address “disproportionality” as in IDEA 2004. There was no evidence whatsoever schools were self-correcting for the problems of misidentification.

Parent advocacy deflected children into special education. Schools were typically mute about the risks of special education, and parent and legal organizations continued to behave as though it were 1940. Parent fears and teacher convenience did much to keep children in special education when the objective results were negative.

The negative effects of long-term MRE placements were demonstrated by graduation failure rates. Many at-risk children got stuck in skill development paradigms through the middle school years only to reach a point where they were ill-prepared to deal with the social-communication and vocational issues of high school (cf. 6. SLP Caseloads). Many “graduated” into community placements that continued to segregate people from communities.

Least Restrictive Environment places a responsibility on IEP teams to WEIGH the risks of special education placement and retention. Across America’s schools IEP teams prefer the risks of stigmatizing children’s academic careers to the risks of school non-compliance and inconvenience.

School psychologists, speech-language pathologists, recreational therapists, physical therapists, special education teachers, occupational therapists, reading specialists, special education directors, and behavioral therapists need to improve their skills to exit children appropriately from special education and integrate them into general education.

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